April 03, 2009

Challenging Times For Bus Rapid-Transit System (Johannesburg)

Today is perhaps the most challenging day since the Rea Vaya project was launched,” noted City of Johannesburg member of the mayoral committee for transport Rehana Moosajee, speaking at the Intelligent Transport Society South Africa’s e-Transport conference, held in Sandton last week.

As she spoke, angry taxi drivers were taking to the streets in Johannesburg, in protest against the city’s planned Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) system, similar to what Cape Town taxi drivers had done in recent weeks.

The BRT system will transport commuters in buses using dedicated lanes, with purpose-built stations every ?750 m along the main routes.

Taxi drivers and owners had earlier voiced their fears that Rea Vaya would threaten their livelihood, while the city had noted that it wanted to draw the taxi industry into the BRT system – also operational in countries such as China and Australia – as operators.

Moosajee was at pains to say that last week’s demonstrations were not arranged by the elected leaders of the minibus industry, adding that industry representatives were “still in firm negotiations with the city on Rea Vaya”.She blamed a rogue element for the citywide demonstra-tions, marred by violence.

She noted that some of the leaders of the protests had even formed part of the BRT taxi industry technical committee.

“The taxi industry has signed a memorandum of under-standing with the city. ?“We don’t have an agreement yet. We’re now at the point where we are presenting a formal framework for negotiations,” Moosajee told Engineering News.She said some 575 taxis would be affected by the imple-mentation of Rea Vaya.

“Part of the negotiations would be to determine how these drivers and owners would be affected. For example, do we as a city buy their taxis, and do they then become part of the operating company, or do we ensure they redeploy their taxis elsewhere?”

Taxis would not be allowed to use the dedicated BRT lanes, and would not have the same origin and destination as a BRT bus, added Moosajee.

“A large number of people in the taxi industry are seriously interested in the BRT system. We remain committed to talking to them, and to making mediation available between the two taxi groupings – but, yes, the city is working through a plan B,” she warned.

“At the roll-out of the project, we knew that the most challenging part would be our ability to convince the minibus taxi industry to embrace this scale of change. But we simply cannot let 2010 come and go and see no changes to the city’s infrastructure.”

Moosajee said phase 1A of the BRT system would be ready for the Confederations Cup, which would serve as this year’s curtain-raiser to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.The 25,5-km route, featuring 20 stations, was due for com-pletion in June.The prototype bus, from Swedish manufacturer Scania, had already arrived in the country.

“The infrastructure roll-out is progressing well,” said Moosajee.In a statement issued last week, Transport Minister Jeff Radebe “strongly condemned” the protest against Johannes-burg’s BRT system by the taxi industry.However, he maintained that the taxi industry remained the nucleus of the planned system.

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Challenging Times For Bus Rapid-Transit System (Johannesburg)

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